It also shows how if Trump weren’t the president, a role that gives him access to the country’s most sensitive secrets, he would almost certainly find it difficult to get the security clearance that so many of those who work for him do , need to have. judged by legal experts familiar with the review process.
“A vulnerability could be exploited by an adversary,” Robert Cardillo – a former high-ranking intelligence official in both the Obama and Trump administrations – told CNN on Monday. “If, as the intelligence community, we were to evaluate a foreign leader and try to understand his stability and know of excessive debt to a foreign or even a national entity, we would consider it a risk.”
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC that she also sees the amazing revelations about Trump’s chaotic finances as a national security issue.
“It’s exposed to hundreds of millions of dollars. Who? The public has a right to know,” she said.
“The fact is, someone has over $ 400 million leverage on the President of the United States,” added Pelosi. “If he were to be a federal commissioner, that would be a major obstacle because someone has an influence on him.”
Debt is one of the points security officers consider dealing with clearances because an adversary has the opportunity to use it or if the person is more desperate to use it as a basis for extortion, experts say.
The amount of Trump’s debt is “incomprehensible in the national security world,” said Mark Zaid, an attorney who represents clients in security clearance cases.
“Security clearances are denied every day based on facts that dwarf his circumstances,” added Zaid. “While a president does not need a security clearance because of the position itself, the circumstances are incredibly worrying. Can we trust Donald Trump to protect our country’s interests or his own?”
At a Sunday briefing at the White House, Trump called the New York Times story “false news” and claimed he paid “a lot” in federal income taxes.
Trump’s personal debt is renewing longstanding fears
Trump’s reported personal debt underscores a long-standing fear of his government held by critics and Democratic lawmakers – that he is administering U.S. diplomacy to prioritize his own personal and financial goals over broader national interests.
Trump, for example, has generated millions in revenue from business ventures in countries like Turkey and the Philippines run by autocrats he praised but who violate traditional US values like human rights. And while the New York Times reported that he paid little federal income tax to the Treasury Department from 2000 to 2017, the President or his corporations have paid more taxes to foreign powers, including $ 145,400 to India and $ 156,824 to the Philippines, according to the Times Year 2017.
The Times report opens up the extraordinary possibility that lenders could be asked to decide whether to foreclose companies owned by the US president during his tenure if he cannot repay the money.
Trump’s closest allies, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have historically denied questions about the president’s personal finances and potential conflicts of interest.
“I find this question bizarre,” Pompeo said in 2018 when asked how he can reassure the American people that US foreign policy is free of Trump’s personal conflicts of interest because his tax returns have not been made public. “I have literally seen no evidence of what you are whimsically suggesting. … It’s an outrageous suggestion.”
But now questions about his personal debt raise a “real question of overseas leverage and leverage against the president … which means there is leverage against the United States,” said John Gans, a Pentagon speechwriter for the then Secretary of Defense Ash Fuhrmann.
“Where this money is owed and to whom it is owed [to]and the way he conducts his foreign policy is a tremendous risk to the US national interest, “said Gans, who serves as director of communications and research at the Global Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s World House.” We cannot determine who he owes and whom he may serve and make happy, and we cannot see what he is willing to do. “
Zaid agreed, telling CNN that “Debt is a major concern of the government in the security clearance process. Historically, financial problems are one of the key factors leading to espionage and betrayal of our country.”
“While all cases are about demonstrating mitigation … hundreds of millions of dollars of national security debt is incomprehensible,” he said.
Trump and members of his family, who have top White House jobs, have often bypassed traditional government scrutiny processes to pursue foreign affairs that have been touted as key terms in his re-election campaign.
For example, the Trump administration used a controversial emergency agency to sell weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia without the approval of Congress, and more recently the White House brokered an Israel-UAE deal with little input from lawmakers or key players authorities involved.
“The deal is part of his foreign policy record. The problem is that we don’t know what’s in the deal. We don’t know what is being promised,” Gans told CNN.
More questions about Trump’s business relationships in Russia
The Times report stressed that it was not discovering any new links between the president and Russia. But intelligence officials have long questioned what Trump’s indulgence towards Moscow and President Vladimir Putin could explain.
The president’s first director for national intelligence, Dan Coats, according to Bob Woodward, “continued to have a secret belief that Putin had something on Trump despite not being backed by intelligence evidence. According to Woodward’s book, Rage,” Coats felt “How else to explain the President’s behavior?”
Trump has repeatedly argued with the intelligence community, including Coats, over the issue of Russian meddling – a troubling dynamic that spawned one of the more unusual spectacles of his presidency and raised questions about his motivations, particularly in the context of investigations into Moscow meddling in the presidential campaign 2016.
Trump has often blown up officials who wanted to alert him of such actions to know why they continued to focus on Russia and often questioned the intelligence service itself, several former government officials said.
When asked about CNN’s report that Trump was resistant to intelligence warnings against Russia, National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe told CNN in July that “this is completely wrong” in a statement. Ratcliffe took the job in May.
Trump’s business relationships in Russia, which lasted roughly 30 years, have come under scrutiny in recent years, particularly as officials tried to expose the extent of Moscow’s interference in the 2016 elections and contacts with members of the Trump campaign.
Questions put to some witnesses during wide-ranging interviews included the timing of Trump’s decision to seek the presidency, possibly the endangerment of the information Russians had about him, and why efforts to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow have failed, said two sources at the time.
Ultimately, however, Mueller and Deputy Aaron Zebley informed the White House that they would not seek Trump’s financial information due to concerns that “unnecessary presidential ranking” could thwart future cooperation and “jeopardize our ability to fully expose Russian interference and to record “at the election,” according to a new book by Andrew Weissmann, a senior representative of the Special Envoy, entitled “Where the Law Ends: Inside the Müller Inquiry”
Weissmann also writes that he saw the possibility of several investigations against Trump and the Trump organization that were not pursued because the Mueller team did not follow all financial leads. These possible investigations included tax fraud, overseas bribery, electoral fraud, and bank fraud, he wrote.
On Monday, Weissman, who formerly headed the FBI’s criminal fraud division and knows the inner workings of Trump’s orbit better than most, spoke to the general fear of the revelations in Times history: “Now ask who Trump hundreds owes millions of dollars to come early? ”he tweeted.
CNN’s Stephen Collinson and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.